Photo: James Healy

Midwifery student Roisin O’Mara believes that her medical background will aid her in dealing with the physical and mental welfare of students as SU Welfare Officer


With four years of midwifery studies under her belt, Roisin O’Mara believes her medical background will help her in being UCD Students’ Union’s Welfare Officer. Since first year, she has “been dealing with people who have problems, of physical nature and of mental health nature. I’ve been doing this for four years, I have been learning about it and I have been implementing it through practice, from really really great experiences and really really terrible ones as well. So I feel that this background makes me very suitable for this.”

The mental and physical health of students is a major issue for O’Mara’s manifesto. Due to demand, UCD counselling services are under severe strain with students being referred to Ranelagh for counselling. O’Mara believes “if people feel the need to go to the mental health counselling on campus, then they need to see somebody if they feel as bad. So I don’t think it’s okay to have someone on a waiting list. And I get it’s very difficult to do it. It’s an oversubscribed service. So I think anyone who presents themselves and who feels they need it should absolutely be given the time of day and given the means to access whatever they need. I would look into the SU funding additional counselling services externally.” With such a high demand, it’s difficult for students to be seen soon enough. O’Mara wants “people to be seen the same day but like in reality that might not happen. I think a two-week turnover would be good for an acute issue. Say you definitely need to see someone today, then you should get that seen as soon as possible.”

Students on placement are also a focus for O’Mara. She understands “how difficult it is to feel like part of the university when you’re not on campus. When you’re in a hospital or an internship it’s very easy to feel like you don’t belong here anymore. So I want to actually extend campaigns to the people who are on placement and maybe go visit them. I want to link in with them because it’s hard to spend half the year on placement and feeling like you have no one to talk to or feeling like you don’t belong in the hospital or the university. Which a lot of students of nursing and medicine who I have spoken to certainly do feel.” She is critical of the Students’ Union’s engagement with students on placement, saying: “There has been nothing from the SU in the entire four years I’ve been in university. I have never gotten an email from them saying ‘you’re going on placement, we’re still here, you can still talk to us.’”

As well as mental health, physical health is also important to O’Mara, who wants to introduce health check-ups and screening. This would involve not only health check-ups but information on self-checking: “With breast checks you get a specialist nurse in to teach people how to do it.” With marketing the campaign, she intends to “run the campaign online with the posters and run different events on campus.”

Sexual health and consent have been a major part of UCDSU campaigns this year. The recent UCD 200 story, which turned out to be unsubstantiated, has also opened the door for criticism of UCD’s handling of sexual harassment and assault, with the first consent class happening last week. O’Mara thinks the SU needs to “re-examine SHAG Week. I think sexual consent and healthy sex is so much bigger than anything we could do in just one week. It needs to be brought forward throughout the whole year and be taught the entire year. It’s important to look after yourself, it’s important to respect others and I don’t think a week or a day is sufficient.”

Accommodation is a major source of worry for students in Dublin, especially UCD due to it’s South side location. O’Mara wants to improve the accommodation advisory service and the email alert service. “I’m actually hopeful the Welfare Officer will run them or indeed the exec council will run it. Or if needs be we get someone in to do it, like a student or an intern. Just to look out at Daft.ie and other housing sites, and give emails out to where you want to go.” O’Mara also wishes to improve the UCD Accommodation Pad as “it’s a good service, it just needs a bit of tweaking and a bit of expansion. And a bit more advertisement I think…”

The UCDSU has recently announced they will hold a referendum on re-joining the USI. O’Mara believes “there is power in numbers. I wouldn’t be against re-joining the Union. I don’t think my opinion overall matters. It’s kind of more what the students want and a referendum will be held. Whatever the students decide on, that’s what will be carried. I certainly don’t think it’s a bad idea. There’s a power in having a big group of people putting a voice behind us as well.”

 

Analysis: Welfare Watch

Roisin O’Mara displays both interest in and a passion for the position of Welfare Officer. What is apparent is that she is running for the position because she wants to improve life for students on campus. Having said this, her campaign suffers from a lack of fully thought out ideas. Her manifesto is vague in parts, and issues like the funding of additional counselling and SHAG week haven’t been fully thought through.

The advisory service she proposes to help students with finding accommodation is notable, but O’Mara provides little substantial information on how she will bring this to fruition. Her proposal for the SU to fund additional counselling outside of UCD to make up for the shortfall is a good idea, but one that doesn’t take into account that students are already referred to Ranelagh if the waiting list is too long. Her proposal for classes on mindfulness, meditation and cooking are also noble, but haven’t been sufficiently planned. Currently, most of what she states remain as ideas, as she has contacted few of the relevant people to find out if the ideas are actually viable.

Besides some of her ideas not being wholly thought out, what O’Mara does make clear is that she does care about the role of Welfare within the Students’ Union, and she is driven by a genuine desire to help students – which can be seen in her plans to extend a hand to students on placement. If elected, she would need to immediately start putting in place concrete plans for exactly how she will fulfill the promises made in her manifesto and in her interview.